Ibsen solves theatre’s man problem

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Jolyon Coy and Sam Hazeldine in The Almeida Theatre's Little Eyolf. Photo credit: Hugo Glendinning

Audience taste for classic drama is to blame for theatre’s lack of diversity, says actor Jolyon Coy. “Classic plays still have a huge draw for audiences, and in those plays there are often few parts for women”, says Mr Coy, starring in Little Eyolf, which opened at Almeida Street’s Almeida Theatre on 19 November. The answer, Mr Coy suggests, is staging more drama from classic playwrights like Little Eyolf’s Ibsen, who writes his female characters as “brilliant, interesting, diverse people, rather than sidelining them to whatever is happening with the men”.

Mr Coy dismissed the current glut of public school-educated British actors as “a fashion…it goes in cycles”. An alumnus of LAMDA, the drama school currently fighting closure with a fundraising campaign fronted by Benedict Cumberbatch, Mr Coy warned of the impact of high drama school fees on the face of British drama: “only a certain demographic can afford to train, and it reduces variety in the industry.” Theatre has a way to go, he added; calling for a “real drive for the industry to be much more diverse – in terms of ethnicity, and parity between men and women. You have to show all walks of life.”

Mr Coy recently joined Disney’s remake of The Beauty and The Beast, due for 2017 release, alongside two public-school educated British superstars, Emma Watson and Dan Stevens. “It was like being paid to go to Disneyland,” Mr Coy says: “the best day’s work ever. I had an absolute ball. I can’t wait to see it.”

Little Eyolf runs at The Almeida Theatre, Almeida Street, until 9 January 2015.

Tickets available here: http://www.almeida.co.uk/whats-on/little-eyolf/16-nov-2015-9-jan-2016

PHOTO: Hugo Glendinning